Bone Idle in the Charnel House


I received this book today, as recently purchased from the publisher:

A Collection of Weird Stories
By Rhys Hughes

Hippocampus Press 2014

My previous reviews of Rhys Hughes works linked from HERE

*My real-time review of this book will appear in the comment stream below as and when I happen to read it.*

26 thoughts on “Bone Idle in the Charnel House

  1. The Swinger
    “The tightened noose was empty.”

    I have often called Rhys Hughes texts fictionatronic, a deadpan mix of literary hydraulics, both serious and funny, and this is the perfect example. A hotel’s haunted tree is literally fictionatronic, linking weird hauntings, ironic literary ambitions / rivalries, time travel… This one adds the ingredient of a ligottus as a hanging noose…
    Fictionatronic as centrifugal suicide within a virtuous circle.

    In hindsight, my photographic image yesterday of the book’s front cover above seems somehow appropriate to this first story?

  2. Bitter in Sour
    “…a night that was dark but never truly black, as if the sky were only pretending…”
    From the previous hotel to one that, Gormenghast-like, opens outwards (with bolts on the outside rather than the inside of doors) into some macro-economical world of semantics. Differentiating bitter from sour amid puns of place names… Places very evocative with a heady atmosphere of the symbiotically romantic, the exotic and potentially caliphic. A Girl in Algiers.

  3. The Old House Under the Snow
    1 – 3

    “The two madnesses cancelled each other out. The result is unintentionally normal.”
    imageThe mind-heating start of an absurdly believable mercenary adventure of two male companions exploring a legendary house in a crater into which snow has fallen and covered it, an exploration with bottomless implications and thermal-exchange, -conduction, -convection as a means of fictionatronic travel down toward and within the house’s walls. The two madnesses relate not only to the original construction of that house or, by inference, to the two explorers themselves but also, I sense, to the writer and reader!

  4. 4 – 8
    In hindsight, having now read the end of this novelette, my description yesterday above seems even better than it seemed then! The remainder of the text is a controlled but frenzied extrapolation upon a Jules Verne vision to the nth power of ‘a domestic tartarus’, with the macronised world outside the hotel as a ‘hotel’ itself in the previous story becoming now, in this novelette, a macronised world or ‘pandemonium’ actually within that hotel as a type of ‘Nemonymous Night’ inner world or a Gormenghast construct as the narrative ‘Warren’ itself. Amazing stuff.
    “Our momentum will carry us beyond it.”

  5. The Warlord
    This is not the Rhysop Fable with the same title, but there is at least an implied moral to round it off. Interlocking tunnels (like the houses in the crater above) in a cyclic ‘Russian doll’ concertina (cf the linking of revenge in the previous story) of augmenting and then diminishing between lake-surrounded islands, with the audit trail of a duel between two warlords. A duel of fame, whereby less becomes more…?

  6. Vampiric Gramps
    “Ghetu was a genuine vampire, I assure you, an aristocratic avatar…”

    A delightfully mind-ricocheting account of another eventual duel, now between the logic of reflections in mirrors and the inalterable myth of vampiric symptoms, all taken to the monstrously nth power of self versus self. [Embedded in this account is what I have long called ‘The Angel of Agony’ syndrome about vampires and mirrors, ever since I wrote that entitled story in the early 1990s (republished in the ‘Weirdmonger’ book and lightly rewritten in ‘A Dead Monument to Once Ancient Hope’).]

  7. Bone Idle in the Charnel House
    “How do spiders weave webs across a path?”
    …to answer that question: by stretching this novelette’s audit trail from the narrator’s Ligottian neurasthenia toward a mighty vision of our earth and its core. Are we ‘a prisoner of rhythm’, as this text has it, or a prisoner of Rhys?
    This novelette rates as one of my all-time favourite works among the choice Rhysaurian canon of his substantive ‘horror’ masterpieces, ranking alongside A Rape of Knots, The Quixote Candidate and others.
    It is also, for me, a didactic satire or ironic allegory regarding the workshy and the physically inactive, relevant to this author’s long-term and frequent public view of Lovecraft and his fans as well as the Horror fiction genre itself.

  8. What I Fear Most
    “…and convection would carry at least half of me underground, ripple me out into the vastness of the spherical infernos, nested like orbits…”
    A monologue upon the anxiety of one’s body after death amid one’s greatest fear of cold… Embrace that cold is the solution staring into one’s face, after much intriguing variation upon that theme. Not stoicism so much as awareness of eternity’s blink in an out-staring game.

  9. I read and reviewed the next story in 2010 here as quoted below…

    [[ Rediffusion by Rhys Hughes
    No disrespect to any of the previous stories, but this is a palate-cleanser.
    It evokes a brilliant absurdist concept of Kafkaesque crime and punishment in tele-moto-perpetuo-miniaturitis.
    For me, it also complements ‘Decision’ in its game of consequences and, by inverse serendipity, seems to extrapolate upon what I said above about ‘South of Autumn’: “Sometimes things should be left real as they do not deserve being made into fiction.”
    [I have been fruitfully exploring the various aspects of the word ‘diffusion’ in honour of this story.] (28 sep 10 – another 3 hours later) ]]

  10. I read and reviewed the next story here in 2012:

    [[ Casimir the Converter
    “The years passed in obscurity and my childish hatred evolved into a mature misanthropy.”
    I sense that this story represents the core of Rhys Hughes himself, symbolised by discovery of a natural amphitheatre in the wilds of Gabon where can be conceived a religion based on a non-existent God that is more powerful than any God that exists – with icons and symbols that can convert the undead vampires as well as the dead and living among us while accompanying a complex rite of passage from misanthropy to idealism. Yet, I could weep for the soul of this story… “Shinto vampires cannot bear to view a gate.” (19 Sep 12 – 6.25 pm bst) ]]

  11. Smuggling Old Nick to Newfoundland
    “The devil loves to travel abroad,…”
    This has the Rhysian ‘Castor Jenkins’ type setting of a pub and pub talk, here with a smuggler of people whither and whence, and the arrival of a preacher who during such smugglement crosses paths with the devil, leading, I infer, to what I shall call a Satratic Dialogue. This story teems with some of this author’s richest conceits of absurdity and logic.

  12. Shelling the Toad
    “We knew we were slightly mad, but we didn’t know why, and at such times the solution was always to travel. […] And now we were in a patch of Old Hungarian values that was no longer in Hungary itself but in Serbia. Borders had been moved like ropes pegged to stakes, and peoples had been forced to skip over them.”
    Sometimes I come across a Rhysaurian work that takes me by the scruff of the carapace and this is one of them. I would go as far as to say that, with time, I might come round to thinking that this is the Rhysaurian masterpiece, as a succinct short story with gently accretive, miscegenative, evolutionary elements that I have never noticed in his work before. His customary strength of conceits has taken on a new High Poesy. It is a love story with a luten minstrelsy as its counterpoint of a new music (I love atonal music, but this is not quite atonal, but something else) and the story’s ending is genuinely shattering to the emotions.

  13. The Hydrothermal Reich
    “It does not matter who is the oppressor, who the victim, so long as there are oppressors and victims.”
    This is the first time I have read this story, like most stories in this book. I edited and published a fiction anthology entitled ‘Horror Without Victims’ in 2013, and somehow I am glad I had not read this story then. You will have to work out why.
    I do not think any reviewer, however skilled, could possibly do justice to this story. Rhys Hughes himself possibly cannot do justice to it in his role as author, bearing in mind the age-seasoned and intransigent literary theory of the Intentional Fallacy in which I have been interested since the 1960s. I do not even allow myself the confidence to approach closer to its power and strength. You just need to read it, let it roll over you, absorb its stunning syntax and phraseology, compare its events to Hitler’s last days in the Berlin bunker and those days’ real men from history now in this story, men who were part of his gang, extrapolate for yourself some of the narrator’s experience after escaping that closed circle at the head of the Third Reich, his transmogrification like, for me, rock-marooned Pope Gregory’s transmogrification in Thomas Mann’s ‘The Holy Sinner’, interweave some of the characteristic Rhysian ‘Absurd’ and SF conceits into this quite uncharacteristic (for this author) scenario, and finally just let it stay in the mind, dwell on it, then let it go, if it will let go of you, which I doubt. This is Literature with a big L and I intend that to be a positive comment.
    Finally, the concept of the ordinal Reichs as subsisting together rather than end to end seems to relate to a gestalt, and the stories of this collection. Perhaps all Rhysian stories that I have ever read. Stories by some unknown Holy Sinner.

  14. The Spoon
    Related perhaps to his age-seasoned blog ‘The Spoons That Are My Ears’, Rhys Hughes, here in this short short, presents, deceptively, through unreliable Sense and / or / of Absurdity, a frightening vision of time-fed senility in an old people’s home, sown with aspects of Tarr and Fether as inner and outer madness.

  15. Chameleons
    I call this a Mexican Wave of Chinese Whispers of Doubles related to the ‘Double Meaning’ story in the Orpheus Rhysbook I’m simultaneously reviewing, but also, frighteningly, this resonating Chameleons story is a reflection of the origin of the soul demonstrated by the previous Spoon story in this Bone Idle book, and which double is the source and which the replica, which story’s beginning is also its end? Robinson Crusoe as all his Men Friday?

  16. Happiness Leasehold
    “I know this story.”

    – so much so I tried to find out if it had been published before, as I felt I knew each word as I read it. It is another Rhysian double bluff, though, an exercise in reader befuddlement by some prestidigitation of metafiction and assumed real or at least real-time authorial explication as part of the story. I have long seen any fiction author as the freeholder, the narrator as leaseholder, and the reader as sub-tenant. But what is the reviewer? That holy drunk on the book’s bridge from the other book just now reviewed? Writing handwritten letters may have become generally less common, but I continue to write a longish one to someone to whom I’ve sent such letters on a fortnightly basis since 1967 till now. My explication about such handwritten letters may have nothing to do with this story or even this review about it. It can only work in real-time.

  17. Life and the Plumbline
    “By arranging and faking certain ritual murders at precise points on the map, he had compelled Lönnrot to study their geometric relation to one another and anticipate the location of the supposed next murder, which in fact was his own.”
    imageAn explicitly reincarnative sequel to or inspiration from Borges’ “Death and the Compass”, this also entails the Doubles or Chameleons in other stories currently being real-time reviewed, and even entails my earlier accidental photography of the book’s front cover at outset. The indulgence of a ‘wordgame’ alongside the potential mathematical labyrinths of a straight line is oddly lacking in Rhysian wordplay, but certainly teeming with brainplay. Not a whatghosthauntswhom, not even a whodunnit, but a whoconquerstheirshyness as a post-hydrothermal reprieve from a recurrently archetypal murder…Life as a Ligottian knot. cf The Swinger.
    For me, also had a feel of Chambers’ King in Yellow book.
    “He noted how the estuary waters were less yellow than usual but withheld his judgement on the significance of this.”

  18. The Unsubtle Cages
    “Alone in a new city, the traveller decided to visit the zoo. It might be a place to find conversation,…”
    It as if this book has now opened its own cage door, to reveal another cage, with the reader sitting in the eye not of a storm but a skull. This story can only be understood if you have travelled yourself – alone and lonely – through the rest of the book up to this point, as it takes a Rhysian conceit to esoteric proportions that only special readers can unlock. Some book reviews are merely pretentious. But this one is the ultimate pretentious review, the reviewer’s real-time ‘zoo’ being one where you can stop or start dreaming for certain and simply know whether you are reading fiction or living it.

  19. Sigma Octantis
    “The darkness is coming, I’m certain of that. We’re still groping in the twilight, the half-light of humanity.”
    Like ‘The Hydrothermal Reich’, with which it has Paraguayan as well as historical and eugenic connections, this story is another significant work in the Rhysaurian canon, one which, like the story’s theme itself, you need to absorb as a part of many parts in a single project (like each leitmotif in a dreamcatcher real-time review strives to become a gestalt) – let it flow over you, but at the same time meticulously measure its particles, e.g. its Welsh colony of Patagonia between the two world wars, its sky’s sparse starscape, its mad scientist project to alter astrology itself, the Jewish diaspora of a single disguised bomb … perhaps pre-empting today’s form of false-state terrorism, cf Patagonia with Isis.
    Astrology for me is empirical ‘as above, so below’ synchronicity rather than ’cause and effect’, so the startling project in this story seems uniquely to straddle those two theories, thus potentially, for me, changing the whole view of reality: its triptych of free will, randomness and pre-determination.
    There is much else of the ideational in this story, couched in a perfectly stunning prose, matching Pynchon at his own game. I can give it no greater compliment.

  20. The Century Just Gone
    “They squat in their own brains at night, where it never stops raining, even indoors.”
    Another Satratic Dialogue leading to a Duel of Ill-Fame, a gladiatorial number of such duels or just one duel in the benighted streets of the then next century’s dead city, the century where we squat now.
    It is a gladiatorial between the most evil beings of the 20th century, the identity or nemonymity of whom being discussed and chosen at a deadbeat New Year’s Eve party of two workshy Billy-no-mates in what was eventually to become the dubious cusp of the 21st century at midnight in a single time zone of 1999-2000. A Horror Without Victims. A clouded vision of two deadbeats made deadbeat by the even then encroaching internet – here staged by 70 TV channels each giving a different futuristic youtube angle upon the Wyndham Lewis visionary gladiatorial of devils or men, or just a single inner and outer gestalt-evolving chrysalis called Self? Knife or Gun or a Liar like me.
    “Seeing inappropriate connections is a myopia of the human inner eye.”

  21. That last story was a fine coda to this book as a symphony (neither atonal or tonal), a tantalising blend of mind-itching absurdity and deadly seriousness. A major disintentionalised work that, as a still evolving gestalt, takes the author one stage further toward winning the final duel of all. Not an idle bone in its body.


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